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Kenny Moore
August 21, 1978
England's phenomenal Francis Daley Thompson earned decathlon hurrahs at the Commonwealth Games and Henry Rono won two golds
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August 21, 1978

Making A Big Splash In Edmonton

England's phenomenal Francis Daley Thompson earned decathlon hurrahs at the Commonwealth Games and Henry Rono won two golds

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Quarrie took five hard strides and shot past. "No you're not," he said, chiding index finger wagging. In the stands furious betting broke out among Jamaicans and Trinidadians and Tobagonians. One nervous neutral held $1,000 by the time of the final.

Crawford drew the same inside lane he had in Montreal. Quarrie was again across the track in lane 8. "I wasn't going to let Montreal happen again," said Quarrie. "There I passed Borzov and thought I had it, but I didn't see Hasely way over to the left. Here I wasn't going to look. Just run."

Crawford got off best. Quarrie came flying. Crawford thought he had won and held up an arm in conquest. Quarrie thought he had won and took a victory lap. All kinds of money changed hands, then changed back as the results were announced. Quarrie won in a wind-aided 10.03, while Crawford was timed in 10.09. Between them, in 10.07, was a 26-year-old converted long-jumper from Scotland named Allan Wells. Wells uses no starting blocks because they don't feel comfortable to him, trains his reflexes by punching a speed bag for half an hour a day and displays a refreshing unsprinterlike humility. "To get a silver medal in this field," he said, "is beyond my wildest dreams. Against Donald Quarrie nobody alive could do better."

That is against a sound Donald Quarrie. In the 200 semifinal, Quarrie leaped into the air with a cramp after 100 meters and didn't qualify for the final. Wells, after burning the turn in something like 10 flat, held off Guyana's James Gilkes in the stretch to win the gold in 20.12, also wind aided.

The race that all the distance runners wanted to win was the 5,000. Brendan Foster, the Games' 10,000 champion from England, was after it, as was teammate Mike McLeod. Both are from Gateshead; both are tall, fluid and tough. Foster, for five years England's best, is a gregarious soul, fond of pack running. McLeod is usually dour and silent, running only with his dog.

The weather conspired against the distance races. The 10,000 was slowed by heat. The steeplechase, made even more exhausting by high winds, was won by the incomparable Henry Rono in 8:26.5, followed by fellow Kenyans James Munyala and Kiprotich Rono (no relation).

Henry Rono admitted that he was tired of competing and was yearning for the season to end. As a result of his four world records this spring, he has been pursued from pillar to post by frantic meet promoters, shoe representatives and Kenyan officials. During summer races in Europe he picked up a sore knee, a sore hamstring, a sore calf.

"This man is headed for a breakdown," said a Finnish physiotherapist who has treated Rono. "He's had too many races."

But Rono races on. He won the 10,000 and steeplechase in the African Games, two weeks before Edmonton. "I don't think about records now," said Rono wearily. "Just about trying to win."

If anyone seemed capable of denying a vulnerable Rono the 5,000 at Edmonton, it was New Zealand's Rod Dixon, a faster finisher and now superbly fit. But as thunderheads gathered and huge warm raindrops began to fall on the runners assembling for the start, Dixon experienced an athlete's nightmare. He found that his bag containing racing spikes, number, credentials and $120 had been stolen. In a non-Olympic moment of flexibility, the start was delayed while a call went out for shoes—size 9�—and a black New Zealand singlet.

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